A video assistant referee (VAR) system is a support tool for officials. The use of video match officials (VMOs) in football was included in the 2018/2019 edition of the Laws of the Game and was successfully used at the 2018 FIFA World Cup™. Since then, the system has been implemented in over 100 competitions worldwide.
How does it work?
The VAR team supports the decision-making process of the referee in four match-changing situations:
Goals and offences leading up to a goal
Penalty decisions and offences leading up to a penalty decision
Direct red card incidents only (not second yellow card/caution)
Throughout a match, the video assistant referee team constantly checks for clear and obvious errors related to these four match-changing situations. The VAR team communicates with the referee only for clear and obvious mistakes or serious missed incidents.
The video assistant referee team supports the referee from a centralised video operation room (VOR) located in Doha, Qatar. All host broadcaster camera feeds from the eight stadiums are provided to the VOR through a fibre-optic network. The on-field referee at each stadium talks to the VAR team via a sophisticated fibre-linked radio system.
The video assistant referee team has access to 42 broadcast cameras, eight of which are super slow motion and four of which are ultra-slow motion. Slow-motion replays are mainly used for factual situations, for example, to identify the point of contact of a physical offence or the position of an offence. Normal-speed replays are used for subjective judgements, for example, to determine the intensity of an offence or whether or not a handball was punishable. In addition to the broadcast cameras, the VAR team has access to the camera feeds used by semi-automated offside technology.
The VAR team has access to all FIFA host broadcaster camera feeds. As in the past, the feeds (unilateral camera feeds) from cameras installed by Media Rights Licensees (MRLs) are not available to the VAR team. Such cameras generally focus on the team the MRLs represent and are not part of the official host broadcaster’s camera plan.
The VAR teams
The team consists of the video assistant referee (VAR) (green shirt, right to left) and three assistant video assistant referees (AVAR1 (second from the right), AVAR2 (third from the right) and AVAR3 (standing). All video assistant referee team members are top FIFA video match officials. Three replay operators (pictured in black shirts) select and provide the best camera angles.
VAR: The VAR watches the main camera on the upper monitor and checks or reviews incidents on the quad-split monitor. Moreover, the VAR is responsible for leading the VAR team and communicating with the on-field referee.
AVAR1: The AVAR1 concentrates on the main camera and keeps the VAR informed about live play if an incident is being checked or reviewed.
AVAR2: The AVAR2 is a video match official with an assistant referee background and is located at the offside station and checks any potential offside situations, with the help of semi-automated offside technology, to speed up the VAR check and review process. (Image from FWC 2018 and then replaced with one from Qatar)
AVAR3: The AVAR3 focuses on the TV programme feed, assists the VAR in evaluating incidents and ensures good communication between the VAR and the AVAR2 located at the offside station. Referee review area The referee review area (RRA) is a clearly marked area containing a screen that allows the referee to review incidents. It is located pitchside, close to the technical areas.
VAR information for fans
To ensure that all fans in the stadium and watching on TV or mobile devices are well informed during a review process, FIFA has developed a VAR information system for broadcasters, commentators and infotainment. For each match, a FIFA staff member informs the broadcasters, commentators and infotainment about the different steps of the review process, including the reason for and outcome of the review, via a networked touch tablet. The person operating the tablet is located in the video operation room and has access to the camera angles the VAR is looking at. The VAR information system will also be used to automatically create VAR-specific graphic templates for TV and the giant screen in the stadium.
How was it tested?
The VAR system from the technology provider Hawk-Eye Innovations Limited was successfully tested by the independent test institute RISE AB according to the existing global standard of the FIFA Quality Programme. The installed VAR set-up for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar was tested during validation matches before the start of the tournament in each competition stadium.
Here you can find answers and further clarification to the most frequently asked questions.